Salvation Army Phoenix Kroc Center Athletics Manager has her eye on the mission

Salvation Army Phoenix Kroc Center Athletics Manager has her eye on the mission

Courtney Setzer came to The Salvation Army Phoenix South Mountain Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in January and hit the ground running.

In her role as Athletics Manager, Setzer oversees a range of youth sports programs, and has her sights set on widening the impact of the center’s athletics—a key part of The Salvation Army’s programming, which includes education, fine arts and spiritual opportunities as well.

Setzer’s efforts are already making an impact, said Kroc Center Corps Officer Captain Caroline Rowe.

“The quality of the program is top notch with lots of families experiencing the outdoors and overall physical and emotional wellness,” said Rowe. “She is a solid leader, leading and training her team of 15-20. She always motivates and engages her volunteer coaches, and she makes the Phoenix Kroc a better place to work, serve and enjoy.”

Rowe said they immediately noticed Setzer’s impact through an increase in children enrolled in sports.

“We saw numbers over 550, which has historically never happened here at the Phoenix Kroc Center,” she said.

Setzer, a self-proclaimed “sports junkie,” played collegiate basketball and grew up playing volleyball and softball. She oversees the Kroc Center’s flag football, outdoor soccer, volleyball, t-ball and basketball programs in addition to the Kroc Center’s club volleyball program and Kroc Tots, a 7-week program for kids ages 3-5 to begin learning coordination and motor skills with different sports.

Salvation Army Phoenix Kroc Center Athletics Manager has her eye on the mission

Courtesy Courtney Setzer.

While sports are a big part of her role, for Setzer it’s about something more. A former Physical Education teacher, she said she was first attracted to the role at the Kroc Center because of her passion for sports and her experience with The Salvation Army—she was involved with the organization in high school.

“It was a perfect way for me to mesh both where I come from as well as my interest,” she said.

Additionally, she said that as a person of faith, she was attracted to The Salvation Army’s mission: to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in his name without discrimination.

“I like that we can use our sports programming, for example, to carry out the mission,” she said. “We’re not jamming it down kids’ or family’s throats or anything like that, but we’re saying, ‘Hey, this is who we are,’ and I like standing behind that.”

Setzer said athletics fit in with The Salvation Army’s mission because of how they are part of meeting the needs of the community in any shape, way or form.

“Not every family is in need of a food box, or maybe is willing to attend church to hear what the sermon is for the day,” she said. “One way that we can assist is by offering programs where they’re going to be safe, it’s going to be developmental…they won’t have to worry about any other thing that they’re worrying about in their normal life.”

Leah Sanchez has been going to the Kroc Center since it opened about a decade ago. A mom of two, she also serves as a volunteer coach for her daughter’s soccer team there. She said this past season was the first she worked with Setzer.

Salvation Army Phoenix Kroc Center Athletics Manager has her eye on the mission

Courtesy Courtney Setzer.

“I feel like the changes that she’s made have been positive. The parents have seemed to love it. I’ve loved it,” she said. “Some of the changes that she has made has taken that pressure off of being really competitive, especially for the younger age groups.”

Sanchez said Setzer reworked the Kroc Center’s sports programs to where there’s no score keeping for the younger age groups—the kids are there to learn the fundamentals and good sportsmanship.

“I feel like that took away a lot of the competitiveness of trying to win a game, and putting so much pressure on little ones,” she said, adding the parents of the younger groups can be surprisingly competitive.

Sanchez noted Setzer’s team—the Kroc Center sports staff—have really laid the foundation for her to move the program forward, since she’s not starting from the ground up and she said that she’s excited to see what Setzer does with summer coming up—typically the busiest time for sports.

In the future, Setzer said she’s aiming to implement an indoor soccer program to retain those who participate in the outdoor program, along with a Kroc Tot Olympics and adult sports, starting with a co-ed adult soccer program.

“We’re trying to implement a lot,” she said. “I want to try to extend the reach. Instead of being able to just impact youth, I would like to be able to impact adults and young toddlers and more areas and more people.”

Do Good:

  • You’ve probably seen the red kettles and thrift stores, and while we’re rightfully well known for both…The Salvation Army is so much more than red kettles and thrift stores. So who are we? What do we do? Where? Right this way for Salvation Army 101.
  • Want more content from Caring Magazine? Follow us on Instagram! Get caught up with the latest stories, podcasts and more to inspire goodness in your life.
  • Listen to this episode of the Do Gooders Podcast to get an inside look at the unique offerings of the West’s seven Kroc Centers.
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Hillary Jackson

Hillary Jackson is Managing Editor of Caring, where she keeps her finger on the pulse of The Salvation Army and her eyes on the day’s headlines—all in the name of creating smart, impactful content that prompts action. With an insatiable love of information and heart for the underdog, she believes stories to be one of the best ways to understand and empathize with others. Hillary has worked around the world covering the Olympic Games, and her words have appeared in outlets including Washington Post, The Week, The Muse and Architectural Digest. Hillary holds a master’s degree in journalism from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She was a finalist for a pair of National Arts and Entertainment Journalism (NAEJ) Awards as well as for the Religion Newswriters Association’s Chandler Student Award for “The PK Project,” a multimedia experience chronicling the stereotypes facing preacher’s kids versus reality. When she’s not word slinging, you’ll find her walking her West Highland Terrier, Nessie.